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Contact your Congressmen to keep the Internet (and Independent Clauses) free and open

I don’t get involved with politics on Independent Clauses unless it’s critical, and it currently is critical. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is a proposed law that would give a wide swath of powers to “fight piracy” and “enforce copyright laws” to the government, corporations and individual citizens (with and without a grudge). The rules, which are currently “contact the offending website and request a takedown of offending material” or “pursue due process of law to attack copyright thieves,” would be modified to take out much of the process.

Here’s a worst-case scenario: I run a poor review of a band, accompanied by the band’s album art and a music video. The band, angry at this bad review, calls up our hosting company and complains that I posted their copyrighted content without their permission. At this point, our hosting company may be legally obligated to take down the entire Independent Clauses site. Not the post: The whole site. And since due process of law is eliminated, there’s little to nothing I would be able to do about it.

And that’s not even the part of the bill that includes government censorship of websites. This is very, very bad.

Please contact your Congressmen so that this ambiguous, amorphous future doesn’t happen.

Amazon Palm Scanning Is Not OK

In my day job, I am an assistant professor of technical communication at Arizona State University. My specialties are social media and digital ethics. In keeping with that research and teaching focus, Independent Clauses has signed on to a letter to Red Rocks Amphitheater that calls for the venue to stop using Amazon’s palm scanning as a method of ticketless entry. That letter is available here, along with a list of other organizations and artists who have signed it.

There are multiple reasons that I have included Independent Clauses on this letter. The overarching concerns are that technologies of this type are potentially ineffective and dangerous.

First, technologies that promise this sort of unique identification are often not able to actually provide it. Pre-existing biometric identification technologies such as facial recognition have very bad success rates.They often make suggestions based on very low expectation of accuracy that are taken as facts by readers. These technologies are also particularly bad at ‘correctly’ identifying people of color, as Simone Browne notes in chapter three of Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness. This can lead to false positives, false negatives, or non-identifications, all of which can become a serious problem for the person involved. Any biometric identification technology is susceptible to failures of this type and related types. Even proponents of this technology are worried about the abuses it enables.

Secondly, identification technologies of this type often enact and enable databases of biometric information long after the information has been used. This is prima facie unethical; unless a person consents to longterm storage, information should be deleted when it is no longer needed for the purpose it was collected for. When information is not deleted, it can be requisitioned by the government for purposes that the person did not expect. It should not be possible for a person going to a concert to find their biometric data (originally gathered for concert entry purposes but transferred to other companies or the government) used against them in governmental, civil, or judicial proceedings.

Thirdly, palm scanning, retinal scanning, and other biometric markers are distinctive and unique identifiers. Data breaches are becoming an inevitable part of life; that which is collected will be breached at some point. This has already begun to occur: 28 million records of biometric data were breached in 2019. Breaches of distinctive identifiers (such as a palm print) would result in personal information being compromised to an extreme and perhaps unfixable degree.

In short, this particularly ineffective type of technology is often employed in ways that harm people who are subject to this technology, with communities of color and marginalized communities being particularly at risk. If you would like to hear me talk more about this issue via Simone Browne’s work, I did so in two podcast episodes in 2020, here and here.

You can read more about this call to reject palm scanning here. If you feel compelled to act online in relation to this issue, here are some ways.

If you want to post on Twitter, some suggestions include:

  • Quote Evan Greer’s tweet or one of the tweets on Fight for the Future’s page, like this one. You can also link to
  • Tag @RedRocksCo, @AEGWorldwide, @AEGpresents and @AXS to ensure you’re delivering our message to the decision makers loud and clear

If you are inclined to post on Instagram, you can:   

Independent Clauses is not a policy organization; in eighteen years, we have taken stances on fewer than five issues. However, this issue is directly related to being able to enjoy concerts at one of the most iconic venues in the United States (Red Rocks) and other venues. Palm scanning is not a good idea, and it should be scrapped for the good of concert-goers’ civil rights.

Call your senators now against SOPA/PIPA

Independent Clauses supports the SOPA/PIPA Internet Strike Day, and here’s why: if used as it intended (not even abused, mind you, just used as intended), “they” would have the power to shut down Independent Clauses for an infringement anywhere in our last 8.5 years of posts. This is absurd. Please read this and call your Congressman from your computer or from your phone. And if you don’t know what to say, here’s what to say. Help keep the Internet the same, so that it can stay the always-changing, wonderful thing it is.


Piracy by the RIAA: They’re Stealing our Music from Us
Andrea Goodwin

Now that the elections are over, whether or not you like who was elected, whether or not you voted, whether or not you care, one issue that we all will be affected by is the decisions our politicians make regarding peer-to-peer (p2p) file-sharing of music. The decision they make will impact the music we listen to, how we listen to it, and which bands are able to rise from obscurity and share their gift with the masses.
In the weeks leading up to November 3rd, I received many pre-recorded phone calls from politicians, celebrities, and yes, even musicians – notably, Puff Daddy and Vanessa Williams. I also received emails from organizations such as Rock the Vote and, and read an article in Alternative Press magazine featuring It seemed as though the music industry in general had gotten more involved in politics than it ever had – and why not? The decisions our politicians make regarding file sharing will have an immense impact on music.
Right now, Congress is considering laws which would crush p2p file-sharing entirely. One example, the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act, seeks to squash p2p networks. Due to the lack of definitive wording, this act may also make mp3 players (as well as other recording devices) illegal because they support the use of digital music (see If this act passes and this loophole is used to make mp3 players and recording devices illegal, it will infringe upon your freedom to choose how to listen to your music. For example, even if downloaded music does become illegal, would Congress make it illegal for you to “rip” your store-bought CDs to your computer for non-file-sharing purposes? If that’s not illegal, shouldn’t you be allowed to take a mixture of these songs from your store-bought CDs and put them onto your mp3 player for your own listening enjoyment? After all, it is your hard-earned dollar, so shouldn’t you be able to choose how you listen to the music?
In seeking to make p2p networks illegal, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is missing one major point – downloading music is the best way to get free marketing. Musicians and record labels pay nothing for it, and people get to listen to music they normally wouldn’t, thus expanding their minds and encouraging them to buy CDs they normally wouldn’t. In saying the following, I’m assuming that most people have the same mindset that I do when it comes to downloading music: If I like a song, I’ll download it, but unless I really like the band, I’m not going to buy the CD anyway, so the music industry, the stores, and the musicians are not losing any money. On the other hand, if the band puts out more music that I like, I will buy the CD in the store regardless of whether or not I can download it for free – for three reasons. One is the sound quality, because it is very difficult to download an entire album and have every song be crystal clear the way it is on a purchased CD. Secondly, when you buy a disc in the store, you get the cover art, the lyrics, and quite often, extra features that you can use on your computer. In addition to the sound quality and the “extras”, if I like a band, I’m going to support them by going to shows and buying the CDs because I think they deserve it.
Most importantly, making p2p networks and digital music illegal will have a dramatic and negative impact on independent music. Before the implementation of websites where independent bands can post their music online, such as Purevolume and MySpace, it was hard for bands to promote their music outside of their local area. With this new way of “spreading the word”, I’ve been fortunate to hear independent music from outside of my home state of Florida. Without being able to download these songs and listen to new bands, I wouldn’t have been able to hear many of the bands whose CDs I now own – having bought them, legally, from independent record labels. I can’t be the only person who is doing this, either, and with more and more people being able to hear more and more independent music through Purevolume and MySpace, more bands have opportunities to gain a loyal following and rise from obscurity – thus impacting the overall music industry because loyal fans spend money on their favorite bands, and even when these bands become popular, their original following tends to stick with them. For me, this conjures up memories of when A New Found Glory (before they dropped the “A” from their name) was tearing up the local scene in Florida, playing in bars and clubs in front of 50 people…even if they are mainstream music now, the fact that I was a loyal fan “way back when” keeps me interested.
I may only be one person with one paycheck, one checking account, and the ability to buy the CDs that I like, but without being able to hear new music through p2p file-sharing, I wouldn’t know as many artists or buy as many CDs as I do. What the lawmakers and the RIAA forget is that all music starts out somewhere, and it’s not on major record labels with five star promoters. It starts out in tiny clubs, handing out free CD-Rs of their music, or sending out emails with copies mp3 files of songs recorded in basement studios across the nation. It starts with fans listening to those CD-Rs and mp3s and making copies to give to our friends. Eventually, what started with a CD-R or an mp3 ends with success, both in finances and in notoriety.

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